Belfast Telegraph

Sunday 21 December 2014

Winsor 'should not lay wreath'

Tom Winsor, Her Majesty's Chief Inspector of Constabulary, has come under fire for attending a police memorial service in uniform
Tom Winsor, Her Majesty's Chief Inspector of Constabulary, has come under fire for attending a police memorial service in uniform

Police watchdog Tom Winsor should not be allowed to lay the Remembrance Day wreath in honour of fallen officers because he has not served in the force, police chiefs leader Sir Hugh Orde said.

The president of the Association of Chief Police Officers said families of the dead had a "reasonable expectation" that an experienced former officer would represent them at the Cenotaph.

Her Majesty's Chief Inspector of Constabulary traditionally fills that role but Mr Winsor - a lawyer and former rail regulator - is the first person in the post without a police background.

Mr Winsor is also under fire from some rank and file officers who the Police Federation say felt "deeply affronted" by his decision to wear a ceremonial uniform to another memorial event.

Online petitions calling for him to be barred from donning the formal attire which goes with his post - overseeing forces in England and Wales - have attracted thousands of signatures.

Sir Hugh said whether to wear the uniform was "a matter for Tom" but said an "honourable decision" should be made over his attendance at the November 11 ceremonies in London.

"What Tom chooses to wear is a matter for Tom," he told a fringe meeting at the Conservative Party conference in Manchester.

But he added: "Looking forward, I think there is a legitimate concern of the service around who represents fallen officers on Remembrance Day.

"This is absolutely not about an individual. It is about a very important, very sombre event, at which we remember officers who died during the wars giving their service to their country.

"I think those families would expect that the tradition of a very experienced senior police officer to lay the wreath at the Cenotaph would be a matter of their expectation and I think one that would be reasonable.

"We need to have a proper conversation about that to make sure that the person who represents the service at that event is a person who has a history in the police.

"It is a matter of fact that Tom does not have that background and it is also a matter of fact that by convention, to date, Her Majesty's Chief Inspector, because of the history of that individual, would be that representative.

"It needs to be an honest straightforward conversation and an honourable decision made."

Mr Winsor wore the ceremonial uniform designed specifically for the Inspectorate to the National Police Memorial Day Service in Cardiff on Sunday in memory of officers killed on duty.

One petition, which has collected nearly 200 signatures, calls for Mr Winsor to be "publicly censured by Parliament" for his "grossly offensive behaviour" and causing "distress and outrage".

But he told the Police Oracle: "I would rather be criticised for showing respect, rather than failing to show it."

Steve Williams, the chairman of the Police Federation, said: "It has caused some disquiet for some of my members who attended and were deeply affronted by the fact that he was in uniform.

"That said, it comes with his position and he says he is entitled to wear it and I wouldn't want to get drawn into that because at the end of the day that is a very special day for police officers, family and friends to remember their colleagues who died in the execution of their duty.

"I don't think it is right and proper that we should get into negotiations over the whys and wherefores of uniform on that particular day."

Uniforms for Inspectors of Constabulary are not police uniforms, although they look similar, according to the Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary website.

The insignia and cap badge contain the letters HMIC and the Chief Inspector's insignia also includes a star, it adds.

Before he took up the role, Mr Winsor conducted a far-reaching review of police pay and conditions and put forward a number of proposals, many of which were adopted by the Government.

Among his recommendations accepted by the Home Secretary were plans to cut pay for new constables and the introduction of a fast-track scheme for senior ranking positions.

Once dubbed the ''Dr Beeching of policing'', Mr Winsor's proposal to introduce compulsory severance to police forces across England and Wales, which would see the end of ''a job for life'' for officers, was met with fierce criticism and is still under negotiation.

Police minister Damian Green said it was "not for ministers to intervene" in the Cenotaph question.

"That is something to be sorted out inside the police," he said after the meeting.

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